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The 3rd Alternative

“The 3rd Alternative” is a management technique used for resolving conflicting situations. This is derived from understanding to use the age old American proverb, “There are three sides to every story — your side, my side, and the right side!”

Exactly who said the above is not very clear in the texts of history. History shows that way back from 1802, John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States of America popularized the use of this adage. The concept however, is sound even to today’s individual and organizational conflict situations and scenarios.

The most common reason why conflicts occur anywhere is ‘individual differences’. This could mean a difference of opinion between two people on how to perform a certain task, or a difference in the understanding or desire of goals to achieve, or in differences due to different cultural habits, or a difference in common interests, etc.

‘The 3rd Alternative’ is a powerful technique to use when there are individual differences that lead to a conflict. The process is as follows:

1. Find an individual, a 3rd person other than the 2 individuals involved in the conflict. Ensure that this person has the capacity and the intent to remain neutral and unbiased towards both the parties involved. This person serves as a mediator.
2. The 1st party submits their case to the mediator, from his/her perspective, with facts and emotions, with no interruptions, except from the mediator in case of an clarifications
3. The 2nd party submits their case to the mediator, from his/her perspective, with facts and emotions, with no interruptions, except from the mediator in case of an clarifications
4. The mediator steps away from the 2 parties and ponders over the situation at hand considering both the facts and feelings from both perspectives.
5. The mediator then comes up with a neutral and unbiased solution which would be as fair as it can be, and presents the solution to the 2 parties
6. The thoughts of the 2 parties on the proposed solution are listened to by the mediator
7. The mediator rethinks on his/her solution, alters it if need be, and presents it back to the 2 parties.

Though, this technique can also be done with one of the two individuals involved in the conflict taking on the role of the 3rd party, it is however not suggested so because it could later lead to assumptions of bias on part of the individual.

One of the examples of the ‘The 3rd Alternative’ can be found in the story of 2 brothers in a village who were left with a large plot of land and no will after their father’s untimely demise. They are at a loss as to how to divide the land equally between them such that it would not result in any unpleasant situations either then or later. So, under the assumption that he would be the best person to approach the situation from a neutral unbiased perspective, they go to the village head and ask for his help. “We love each other a lot”, they said to the village head, “and do not wish to fight now nor ever. We are confused how to resolve this situation without creating any unpleasantness. Please help us!” The village head comes up with a solution which, on first instance seems utterly ridiculous to the brothers. He says, “Toss a coin. Decide who says ‘heads’ and who ‘tails’. The winner of the coin toss would get the opportunity to divide the land into 2 parts, in whichever way he wishes to do so.” The brothers were aghast! How could the village head say this, they wondered? Wouldn’t it be awfully unfair to the other brother, they questioned? The village head smiled and then gave the remaining part of his solution. “The brother who wins the toss would get the opportunity to divide the land into 2 parts in whichever way he wishes to do so, but, the other brother would have the privilege of choosing which of the 2 parts he wishes to own!” The brothers walked away, happy, and marvelling the wisdom of the village head to look for the 3rd alternative!

Attempt to perceive the 3rd alternative! Resolve your conflicts…
You have the power!

Published in ‘The Hans India’ on 8th Sept 2011

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September 20, 2011 Posted by | The Hans India Newspaper | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Performance Coaching – The STAR Way

From the era of Ramayana and the Mahabharata in the times of Rama, Krishna, and Drone, performance coaching is an age old tradition in India. In today’s modern world of Shiba Maggon and Gary Kistern still follows the very same principles of the yester years coaching.

In the corporate scenario today, coaching works wonders in helping individual performers and teams achieve excellent results by introspecting within and working together. This not only contributes to the entire persona of the individual, but also and helps organizations move towards sustainable growth.

Coaching as a practice is not about telling one what to do. It is more about understanding the situation by asking questions and aiding the individual to arrive at the right solutions.

Corporate executive coaching requires working with an individual on a particular goal or result area in their professional development. It is usually a creative and thought provoking process by which the coach enables the coachee to think and maximize his/her potential and performance in the goal or result area under consideration. The various goal of coaching can be in areas of career management, performance enhancement, managing personal, professional and organizational changes, enhancing problem solving and creativity, effective conflict resolution, amongst many others.

A trained professional uses many techniques and methods of coaching, one of them also being the STAR model i.e. (a) Situation (b) Task (c) Action and (d) Result model.

The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format, an avid interviewer’s powerful tool can also be used as a coaching technique that can be used by executive coaches to help individual and teams enhance performance and productivity in specific areas or situations.
The STAR model can be used when the coach needs to help the coachee to re-visit an experience, learn from the same, and implement in the future.

For example, when there are conflicts occurring in a team, or certain organizational changes like mergers etc, this model works effectively. This is construed by making the coach and the coachee/team to sit together, explore the various facets and avenues of the existing situation through a series of questions, thus gather all the relevant information and there after arrive at a most applicable and sustainable possible solution.

• Situation: Take an example of a situation that can either work as a positive situation or a challenge. Explain and elaborate the situation with all specific details of all the tasks and individuals involved in the situation. Example: the recent disagreement of the employee and their supervisor over a client presentation.

• Task: The various tasks that led to this situation and can lead away from the situation are explored. By asking the appropriate questions such as: Why has this situation occurred in the first place? What has the individual done so as to be in this circumstance? What learning can we take away from the present situation, for the future? What can be done to arrive at a solution in this present scenario? Various options of possible further steps are enlisted.

• Action: What did you do? The earlier actions are re-visited, examined, and evaluated. The coach helps the coachee to identify the aspects in self that created the current situation, understand why it happened, and analyze on what action can be taken to (a) overcome the challenge now, as well as (b) learn to avoid repeating similar scenarios in the future. The various alternative action plans are drawn up and evaluated.

• Results: How was the current situation the outcome of the individual’s past actions? How did the past actions work against the objective the individual had? Once the individual is aware and has eliminated these same aspects in the current possibilities of action, further exploration into the possible outcomes or results of the action to be taken are analyzed. What will be the outcome of the current set of actions? What can the individual achieve through these actions to meet his/her objectives. How can the individual implement the learning from this experience?

The important aspect for a coach to remember while using the STAR model is the ability to ask the right questions and wait patiently for the coachee to explore the situation for possible answers. As a coach, one must always note to remember Winston Churchill saying “Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like to be taught.” Helping one learn themselves from their experience is the core of any coaching process.

Follow the STAR process, and coach away!
You have the power!

Published in ‘The Hans India’ newspaper on 4th Aug 2011

August 5, 2011 Posted by | The Hans India Newspaper, Training and Learning | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment